Shrek: A Nostalgic Review

Shrek is a animated movie near and dear to my heart.  So much has been written about the first Shrek movie, almost all positive things.  The second Shrek had the same thing going for it, yet the third and fourth movies had some fair criticisms that set it behind the first two films.  In the case of Shrek, as with most film franchises, the first film is definitely the best of the bunch.  Here’s why.

The combination of the filmic elements that Dreamworks Animation has come to be known for: action, humor, and heart, with great soundtracks and top-caliber voice performances.  The breakout roles for both Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy into the family entertainment realm, not just Austin Powers for Myers and The Nutty Professor for Murphy.

While Dreamworks has not been as successful as Pixar, especially since partnering with Disney back in the day, the producers and writers of the Pirates of the Caribbean movie series (Terry Russio and Ted Elliot) and the directors of many Dreamworks movies, as well as a few Disney films (Andrew Adamson of 2003’s FINDING NEMO, Conrad Vernon of Shark Tale, 2004).

Shrek is a film beloved for its great story as well.  Simple, but moving and just plain fun.  Shrek’s tale of reclaiming his swamp from the short but conniving Lord Farquaad and coming to know and get along with “fairy tale creatures” and his fear of rejection, and secret (also universal) need for love, is family-friendly and adult-friendly too.  Shrek comes complete with strong and fluid animation that holds up today, 17 years after its initial release in the summer of 2001.  In May, I remember.   Also funny, and witty since the lines are rich with humor and nuanced situational comedy that flows with the story, and isn’t just tacked on for comedy’s sake only.

And who could forget the soundtrack of Shrek, a classic soundtrack that speaks volumes for the solid music that came out then, for the generation who grew up with Shrek.  It’s kinda funny how the popular music fads and bands have changed so much since 2001, but then again change is a big part of life and growing up, eh?

For the generation who have been growing up with Shrek, and the generation who are now being introduced to the Shrek movies, to you I hope you enjoy the movies.  Yes, the music may sound weird to your ears and some of the humor you may not understand, but as you grow older and learn new things, Shrek (as with all movies in time) the humor you didn’t understand at the time you will now understand in a more complete way.

Shrek is a animated classic, and for good animated fun, it’s hard to beat Shrek as a good go-to movie for the entire family to watch and enjoy.  Whether you stream it or buy it, Shrek’s got your back.  Perfect for family gatherings, summer movie family nights, community library or friend hang-out sessions.  Basically for all ages 6 and above.

4 1/2 Onions out of 5

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Solo: A Star Wars Story Review

Solo: A Star Wars Story Review

I adored and loved Solo: A Star Wars story. Way better than Last Jedi and is more of a course correction to get back to the B-movie series charm of the original trilogy. Which director Ron Howard does, brilliantly, with a exciting and terrifically entertaining script by Lawrence Kasdan and Jonathan Kasdan.

Most importantly, the movie is pure Star Wars. Its sense of adventure, romance, danger, villainy, and heroism combine in some expected ways (ie: characters) with some unexpected story movements that are rich with motivation and stay true to the characters of Solo. To say too much here would spoil the movie, and I’d rather you, the reader, enjoy it moment-by-moment.

The score by John Powell is as impeccable as Michael Giacciano’s from Rogue One, and Han Solo’s theme and the Star Wars theme are composed and even expanded in expected and unexpected ways itself from the movie maestro himself, John Williams.

Alden Ehrenreich is a charismatic blast of charm as Han Solo, who does bring to mind Ford’s iconic performance, complete with the arrogant wit/sarcasm; but brings an element of emotion and mystery not seen from Han Solo, before. Which makes sense, because Solo is about Han’s formative years, and how exactly he got his name… 😉.
The rest of the cast, with Emilia Clarke as Han’s love Oi’ra, Paul Bethany as the gentemanly but sharply venomous villain Dryden Vos, the awesome Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian (who does the part amazing justice) and Woody Harrelson as the mentor Beckett (one of his best performances).

As a whole, Solo is a stronger and more exciting/engaging film than the Last Jedi, and I hope and truly want Ron Howard to direct Episode IX or find a way to co-direct with J.J. Abrams.

Viva La Star Wars! (or at least until the Star Wars fatigue sets in)

Until then, count me in on another Kessel Run in 20 (no, 12) parsecs!

4/5 Millenium Falcons

Rogue One: A Netflix Review

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ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY is a stand-alone STAR WARS movie that practically the whole world has seen by now, and even more are on NETFLIX.  Just look at the box office numbers from December 2016 onward!  Anyways, ROGUE ONE is a very worthy and engaging STAR WARS story that is considered canon and is a major hit for being a different type of film than we usually see in the STAR WARS Universe, outside of the Skywalker Episodic Saga: a war story and suicide mission.

ROGUE ONE feels at once personal and epic, like the best STAR WARS movies do.  Instead of optimism and joy, ROGUE ONE ups the tone on tragedy, necessity, high-stakes survival, dire straits and death for the STAR WARS universe.

The action is unbelievably epic and bar-raising for cinema in general.  The special effects are bar-none amazing and very believable.  Industrial Light and Magic keep delivering on changing and growing their special effects skills and their standards and scope is hard to match, just like WETA Digital.

Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso, Mads Mikkelsen as her father Galen Erso, fan favorite actors Alan Tudyk as rogue and witty Imperial droid K-2SO and Diego Luna as Cassian Andor, Donnie Yen as a skilled Jedi follower Chirrut Inwe, Forest Whitaker as the extremist rebel leader Saw Guerrera, and Ben Mendelsohn as the evil Orson Krennic all bring their A-game to this STAR WARS stand-alone war tale.

We all know the story, the action, the tragedy and the characters all…well, you know.  Don’t forget THAT epic Darth Vader lightsaber scene…instant classic, IMO!

IF you haven’t seen Rogue One, what are you waiting for???  It’s on Netflix, go see for yourself what the good fuss is all about!  And buy it too, if you haven’t already!

If you’re interested, here’s a helpful link for ya:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MXLWO5D

 

If you liked this review, follow me on Twitter at @garankin5 and I look forward to having you on board at Rankin’ Movies by Garrett Rankin!

 

 

The Mummy (2017 Review): A Good But Not Great Action and Scare Spectacle

0b940e31ab11e647f25767d310e91fcbThis is not your Brendan Fraser’s Mummy, for better and worse.  Instead, Universal Pictures is hopping on the bandwagon for creating a filmic universe (a la Marvel and DC) called the Dark Universe.  It sure is dark, as is preluded in the 2017 Mummy.  With Alex Kurtzmann directing and Roberto Orci and the producers (Sean Daniels Company) of the original Mummy trilogy, THE MUMMY is a intensely action-packed and surprisingly scary reboot for the series.

THE MUMMY (2017) is the kind of film that knows how to entertain, play with audience’s expectations with familiar characters (played by Russell Crowe and Sofia Boutella) that bring new aspects and angles to the archetypes/characters of Henry Jekyll/Eddie Hyde and a female mummy called Ahmanet, no less menacing if not more so than Arnold Vosloo’s Imhotep from THE MUMMY (1999) and THE MUMMY RETURNS (2001).

The story and tone is darker and creepier than the original Mummy trilogy, yet engaging on a visceral level and on a level of fun as well.  THE MUMMY does have its fair share of seriousness, but it’s also funny and silly when it needs to be thanks to Jake Johnson’s side-kick performance and occasionally self-aware jabs at certain scenes in the film.

Tom Cruise is an interesting choice for the lead character, a very Tom Cruise-esque character Nick Morton whose vanity and search for adventure and gold gets the better of him time and time again.  I think he was an alright choice, just because of his star power and action chops.  His acting is decent here, but it’s not ground-breaking.  I think someone up-and-coming with a new take on the hero archetype would have been more welcome than Tom Cruise’s presence, honestly.  He’s already Ethan Hunt in the MI series and still in many movies already, I think it’s just Hollywood indulgence how and why he’s the star of the Mummy.

I enjoyed the action scenes and the chase sequences involving Tom Cruise’s Nick Morton and the heroine Jenny Halsey, played by Annabelle Willis and usually the creepy and menacing Mummy Ahmanet.  Mummies as zombie-like creatures are an interesting twist for the Mummy series.  Not to mention those scary nightmare sequences feel very dream-like and bring out the cursed nature of Tom Cruise’s Nick.  And Russell Crowe’s Henry character is a provider of helpful exposition, and also story twists and more.

All in all, THE MUMMY (2017) is not an essential 2017 film, but it is a fun, creepy, enjoyable time at the movies, especially for long-time Mummy fans and for people into the famous Universal Pictures monsters pantheon.

If you like this review, follow me on Twitter at @garankin5 and I look forward to having you on board at Rankin’ Movies by Garrett Rankin, only on WordPress!

Alice Through the Looking Glass Review

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Hey guys, this is Rankin Movies reporting for duty.  New year, new you and everything else too!  So, I just finished watching ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS and it was a much better, cohesive and surprisingly emotional adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s second fantastical story in his Alice novels.  Not without its flaws, of which there are a number,  but that number is far more minuscule than you might like to think.

First off, the film is outright and boisterously gorgeous without overwhelming the story or the characters with the familiar and fun actors who play them.  The visuals provided on display are much improved from 2010’s ALICE IN WONDERLAND, with a squeaky but also honest sheen and tone to each provided stage of the story.  Everything in place is as it should be, one thing you may see for yourself in time.  Time, in fact, is a major theme in the Alice novels as well as the story in THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS.  Time is also a major player in the story, too, played with relish by Sacha Baren Cohen.

Now that we’re talking cast, Mia Wasikowska returns strong as ever as Alice Kingsleigh, Johnny Depp plays up the quirks and is the heart and soul of the movie as the “Mad” Hatter Hightopp, Anne Hathaway and Helena Bonham-Carter return as the at-odds sisters and queens who have a history that may be revisited, Alan Rickman voices his last performance as the butterfly Absolem, and a very unexpectedly charming cast of colorful yet relatable characters.  I’m not a fan of spoilers, so I will say time, family, and love are themes in the story all deftly and wonderfully explored by the script and by director James Bobin (THE MUPPETS) who takes over the reins from Tim Burton, and excels in blending the combination of fantastic visuals, wacky weirdness, amazing eye in detail for costumes and sets and solid acting; and with a strong lead in Wasikowska (having grown a lot in acting shoes since 2010) also plays Alice as a headstrong, feminist (without going overboard, lol) and independent young lady knows her limits (at first) but uses her strengths for goodness sake (and for her friends sake too).

Now, to the number of flaws or perhaps gripes.  As an optimist, it’s usually hard for me to find flaws, because I usually look for what’s right in a film instead of what’s wrong (just like in my life as I live it).  Yet time goes on and change is demanded of us all, so a critical eye I have developed over time that has passed and I will say that the computer generated animation does tend to overwhelm and the music swells on a regular basis, which may not be to everyone’s liking.  Also, on that note, the acting is usually exaggerated and over-the-top, which may also not be to everyone’s liking.  And lastly, the sense of humor is silly, to the point where it may be annoying to some.  Still, if none of these gripes matters to you, then you’re in for a delighted surprise.

ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS is first and foremost a Disney movie, where the good has its day and the bad comes and goes.  It is, of course, a sequel to the original 2010 film ALICE IN WONDERLAND, over which it improves upon the nature, structure, visuals, acting quality (slightly better), with a few aforementioned gripes that may not be to everyone’s liking but to those for who it is to their liking, I heartily recommend you use your time to see and enjoy ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS.  The time will pass quickly, and you’ll most likely enjoy your time seeing this film.  I know it did, and I did too.

I’ll also mention where the films I review are located on, with links included, retail and online-wise, so you my readers can have a go-to or a quick link click to use right away or as soon as you can to enjoy what’s out there and on my Rankin Movies blog.

Disney:

movies.disney.com/alicethrough-the-lookingglass

Redbox:

http://www.redbox.com/movies/alicethrough-the-lookingglass-2016

Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Alice-Through-Looking-Glass-Features/dp/B01G2LIL1A

or a Blu-Ray combo edition:

https://www.amazon.com/Alice-Through-Looking-Digital-Blu-ray/dp/B01EUBF5JK

 

Take care :)!

Rankin’ Movies

The Mechanic: Resurrection Review

the-mechanic-resurrection-movieTHE MECHANIC: RESURRECTION is an assured, tightly paced, enjoyable B-movie thriller that packs in a familiar punch from action star Jason Statham that his fans, action film junkies, and adults will find plenty to enjoy here.  The action is fast and brutal, the pace keeps the story going swiftly, and the enjoyment level is high for the audience the movie is intended for.

Starring the Stath, Jessica Alba, Tommy Lee Jones, and Michelle Yeoh, THE MECHANIC: RESURRECTION aims to entertain with its brutal action sequences and its simple but enjoyable story.  As the Mechanic, Jason Statham’s character Bishop returns from the dead from his “death” at the end of the 2011 MECHANIC film (which is a remake of a Charles Bronson film of the same name) to continue his path of peace, until he’s called out of his retirement to a rude awakening with Jessica Alba’s character Gina, a refugee schoolteacher who is a pawn in the game that Bishop’s former-friend-turned-nemesis, Crain, has a bone to pick with Bishop and with Gina as a hostage forces Bishop’s hand into assassinating three targets on Crain’s list, for mysterious purposes.  All nearly impossible tasks, considering the targets are high-profile bad guys who are either well-guarded or well-locked away.  Still, Bishop finds a way to make them look like “accidents”.  He’s the Mechanic, after all.

What follows is a fun, action-packed, smarter-than-you-think and very briskly paced action film that is tailor-made for Jason Statham fans and for action-film junkies ready to get their fix on with this robust and enjoyable action sequel.  I rate THE MECHANIC: RESURRECTION three and a half wrenches out of five, because that’s what I’m talking about.

Star Trek Beyond Review (Super-Sized, Yummy)

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STAR TREK: BEYOND is a stellar and well-rounded sequel to INTO DARKNESS and one of the best Star Trek movies yet, alongside 2009’s reboot and WRATH OF KHAN back in 1982.  Although I really don’t have any claim to give in terms of in-depth knowledge of Star Trek lore, I do know enough (a little more than the casual moviegoer) to warrant an honest opinion on my own terms, in my own words.

The third installment in the rebooted Star Trek film series, BEYOND is written by Mr. Scotty himself, Simon Pegg, and Doug Jung and directed by FAST AND FURIOUS series regular Justin Lin.  BEYOND is also produced by J.J. Abrams and long-time series producers and writers Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci.  This film has a very solid cast: Chris Pine returns as Captain James T. Kirk, as does Zachary Quinto as Commander Spock, Zoe Saldana as Lieutenant Uhura, Karl Urban as Doctor McCoy/Bones, Simon Pegg as Scotty, John Cho as Sulu, and R.I.P. Anton Yelchin as Chekov.  New and notable cast members are: Sofia Boutella as Jaylah and Idris Elba as the mysteriously menacing and intimidating Krall.

The story continues for the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise, picking up five years into their long-term space voyage to explore the space frontier and after the events of INTO DARKNESS.  Kirk and Spock are leading the Enterprise very well, and the crew is happy and in relatively good spirits.  They grow wary of their journey, not unhappy yet not completely satiisfied either.  It’s to their good fortune that they come upon a massive space city that is Federation-owned.  While there, Kirk and the Enterprise crew unwind and discuss their journey while also future prospects of their star trek as well.  It’s not too soon later that a distress call of a desperate alien soul is heard and responded to by the U.S.S. Enterprise, only to find that something much bigger is at play, with evil at work as well…

If you haven’t already seen the film, to go any further would be to ruin some of the story twists and details, and I’m not one for that as you know.  So, I will go over the well-done aspects and moments of the film while also covering its weaknesses, which all films have regardless of opinion: because that’s the truth.

First off, the story is very good, as the organic flow of the tale rewards those who pay close attention to it and every moment of the film plays into the story and helps the story move forward at the break-neck pace that it does.  The acting, especially from Pine, Elba and Urban, and Pegg, is excellent and on-note with previous while also growing their characters in new and unexpected directions.  Karl Urban and Zachary Quinto as Bones and Spock are given more character moments than they’ve had, definitely together, as they have to move forward together to survive and use their smarts and wits to do what they need to do.  Boutella as Jaylah is a very good character whose unique characteristics is reminiscent of Katniss Everdeen-meets Hit-Girl, just with more wide-eyed wonder and way less R-rated language.

Idris Elba makes a menacing and complex villain out of Krall, whose mysterious past plays into who he is and his motivations to do what he villainously does is right up there with Benedict Cumberbatch’s Khan.  Just like he utilized as Shere Khan in THE JUNGLE BOOK, his booming baritone goes a long way with his BEYOND performance as well: an intense performance with scary make-up and strong-willed multi-faceted character motivation whose ultimate plan falls a little flat, but remains a formidable threat nonetheless throughout.

Some minor nitpicks for the BEYOND film: while the film overall is a very good Star Trek (first) installment and great action film in its own right with a strong story and excellent acting, the lasting effects of the events in BEYOND will resonate with viewers as it will with the film’s characters, the story is limited in scope compared to STAR TREK and INTO DARKNESS.  With that in mind, the story is focused on the single location for a good bit of time, as it needs to, but in doing so the stakes are not as high or impactful as the two previous STAR TREK films.  While not really a setback, it’s not exactly a big boost either.

So, what’s the ultimate verdict for STAR TREK: BEYOND?  In my own words and opinion for the film, I’d give it 4 stars out of 5 stars, and that your trek to the theater will be well worth your time and Earth credits :).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Star Trek Beyond and Suicide Squad Reviews Incoming!!

I’m very sorry for the absentee reviews that I’ve not put up, but believe me there will be more soon.  I’ve been seeing movies more regularly, it’s just that my free time is all but gone because of my new schedule.

So I’ll start making time for my reviews for you guys, my readers, by putting up more reviews for more movies that ya’ll have or would like to see.  Please feel free to send in requests for reviews and of course your thoughts and feelings about the movie being reviewed and all that good jazz.  Thanks for hanging in there and waiting for my reviews, believe me when I say I’ll be a more frequent presence and poster on my blog here at WordPress, Rankin’ Movies by Garrett Rankin!

Cheers and much love,

Garrett Rankin

Jungle Book: A Short Review

Jungle Book

Disney’s THE JUNGLE BOOK (2016) is a faithful and amazingly appealing live-action and CGI blend of the 1967 animated Disney classic and Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Books from back in the late 1800’s.  With a well-rounded and pitch-perfect cast of Neel Sethi as Mowgli (the only live-action character in the film), Bill Murray as the lovable bear and friend Baloo, Ben Kingsley as the watchful panther mentor Bagheera,  Lupita Nyong’O as the loving wolf Raksha, Scarlett Johansson as the dangerous snake Kaa, Idris Elba as the fearsome tiger Shere Khan and Christopher Walken as King Louie and excellent direction from Jon Favreau solidify THE JUNGLE BOOK as the best live-action Disney fable…so far.

THE JUNGLE BOOK is a familiar and appealing story that pretty much everyone from many generations over know the story of, so I’ll skip the short story summaries I usually start my reviews with to give ya’ll, my readers, background as to what to expect in the film.  Instead of a summary, I’ll tell ya’ll straight out what to expect out of the adaptation, the quality of the film itself and everything I know of in it, and that if you haven’t seen THE JUNGLE BOOK, you really do HAVE to.  Especially for fans of Disney and all things Jungle Book (which means you may already have seen it).

First off, the CGI is so vivid in THE JUNGLE BOOK (2016) that you’ll get lost in the story almost immediately from the very start.  The only live-actor is Mowgli, played to near-perfection by newcomer Neel Seethi, bringing to life his legendary and very human and relatable boy protagonist.  I can see now a lot of young boys looking up to Seethi’s take on Mowgli and seeing him as a role model.  Now that’s something to be happy about.  Still, Bill Murray and Ben Kingsley and Idris Elba bring to vivid (and often-times roaring) life to their respective characters, where Murray’s Baloo brings the expected amount of humor and warmth while Kingsley’s Bagheera brings the amount of wisdom and love while Idris Elba’s fearsome and manipulative Shere Khan layers the menace upon every scene Khan is in, and the CGI is so good as to immerse every viewer into the almost-unreal jungle landscape and story of Mowgli deciding on how to find his place in the world, stay alive and out of the grips of Shere Khan, and to bond and learn from his friends and jungle family.

The other performances are great too, brief but necessary to move the story forward.  To hear Johansson’s Kaa give background to Mowgli’s past and why Khan wants Mowgli gone so badly shine through, and Walken’s King Louie’s motivations for ruling the jungle are imposing with his size and strength in monkey numbers enhancing the possible threat he may have against Mowgli.

Anyhow, THE JUNGLE BOOK (2016) is must-see cinema and a treat for all ages, except for the littlest wolf cubs.  There quite a few sequences of scary action and peril, just like the PG rating states.  Still, Disney and director Jon Favreau hit a home run with THE JUNGLE BOOK, and I hope that Disney and Emma Watson’s BEAUTY IN THE BEAST is just as good!

 

Dragon Blade: A Review

Dragon Blade

 

DRAGON BLADE is a unique blockbuster with a strong concept, action-packed narrative, and great performances.  A Chinese-American production, DRAGON BLADE knows how to rope viewers in with a colorful cast of Jackie Chan as a Silk Road peace-keeper/warrior Huo An, John Cusack’s Lucius and Adrien Brody’s corrupt Tiberius as two Roman generals/brothers on opposite sides of the forthcoming battle, and many more great actors who I’ve seen before in other Chinese productions (but don’t know who they are); as well as the promise of epic battle scenes and spectacle, which DRAGON BLADE delivers on quite often.

The stunning, simple, moving and action-packed story starts a little slow, with Jackie Chan’s Huo An and his fellow Silk Road peace-keeping warriors introduced breaking up a skirmish on their beloved Silk Road which he is charged with protecting, and is defected through deceitful means to Eagle Gate.  This is where the defected Silk Road warriors come face-to-face with another band of soldiers, a Roman battalion led by General Lucius (Cusack)  who they at first stand off with in self-defense, but eventually see that they are on common ground and tell their respective stories to one another.  Both Huo An and Lucius were banished by deceit, with Lucius’s case being the more severe: his treacherous older brother Tiberius (Brody) blinded Lucius’s son and rightful heir to the Roman Emperor’s title.  Now Lucius is on the run and seeking help for fighting Tiberius, who is in hot pursuit of his brother.

That’s the setup of the story, with many battle scenes punctuating the narrative and a somewhat hokey but still necessary sequence of the Romans and Chinese soldiers helping restore Eagle Gate before an impending punishment comes from their superiors (those in charge of the Eagle Gate).  The following sequence is key to the story, as both Huo An and Lucius’s son sing cultural songs of unity, peace, and loyalty to their homelands.

Jackie Chan is in great form as the character he usually plays, the bumbling yet humble and strong-willed hero who stands his ground and is an excellent fighter.  John Cusack brings gravity and a sense of loss and hope to his character Lucius, whose recent grievance he hopes to right and restore, to bring the fight to his brother…Adrien Brody as Tiberius brings a forcefully malicious and brutally motivated approach to his corrupt character, whose treachery and schemes knows no bounds as does his surprising prowess in battle.

Speaking of battle, the epic and bloody battle scenes deliver the action goods.  Like stated above, the action is top-notch and director Daniel Lee fills the screen with each side fighting in different factions and very different yet engaging tactics and counter-tactics to make the fight choreography and execution that much more enjoyable and admirable.

Now don’t get me wrong, DRAGON BLADE isn’t flawless since the film also has a number of flaws.  The director’s pace in the beginning portion is very slow, even for character development and establishment’s sake.  The acting is top-notch from the main actors, but some of the supporting actors don’t fare as well.  And while the camerawork throughout the film is assured and well-executed, the CGI is somewhat spotty (good in spots, not-as-good in others).

Moving forward, DRAGON BLADE is an especially good martial arts epic with (mostly) great casting choices and acting, an action-packed and simply epic and moving narrative that promotes harmony and unity among peoples and at the same time fight for the right to attain peace.  With a slow beginning pace, spotty acting and CGI (here and there) holds DRAGON BLADE back from being a very memorable action epic (on par with Jon Woo’s RED CLIFF, which is a masterpiece).  Instead, DRAGON BLADE is only very good and not as memorable as it could have been.